A new Democratic effort to whip up indignation about the Bush administration's handling of Hurricane Katrina (search) also tried to raise money for Democratic candidates.

Sen. Charles Schumer (search), a New York Democrat and the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, issued an appeal Thursday urging people to sign an online petition to fire the Federal Emergency Management Agency's director over his handling of the Katrina response.

After an inquiry from the Associated Press, the DSCC quickly pulled down the page and said they would give the Red Cross any money raised by the anti-FEMA petition.

When recipients clicked on a link to the petition, the top center of the screen — above the call to "Fire the FEMA director" — had asked for a donation to the DSCC.

Since Katrina, Democrats have contended the GOP administration badly botched the response, and some have called for the firing of FEMA chief Michael Brown (search).

Republicans hit back by accusing Democrats of trying to use the human tragedy for political gain. The DSCC letter, the GOP said Thursday, was proof.

"It's a disgrace to exploit Hurricane Katrina to raise political funds," said Brian Nick, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

DSCC spokesman Phil Singer said: "While the content of the letter is totally valid, it should never have been linked to a Web site that asks people to contribute to political campaigns."